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What PA's new telemedicine law means for patients

Plus, threat shuts down state Capitol.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Monday, July 8, 2024
Today: Telehealth coverage, Biden stops, email threat, election systems, fee fight, and bills, bills, bills. This is PA Post. Thanks for reading.
Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has signed a bill into law that expands insurance coverage for telemedicine services after years of stalled efforts.  
Shapiro’s office says: “If a commercial health insurer provides coverage for a health care service that is performed in-person, it now must also cover that same service via telemedicine as long as the required standard of care is met.” The law also sets telehealth accessibility standards for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

Insurers were not required to cover telemedicine services in Pennsylvania previously, resulting in a confusing patchwork, per Spotlight PA.
Proponents say this change will make health care more accessible and affordable for rural communities at a time when rural hospitals and providers are at risk of closing or reducing services.
Past attempts to address telemedicine coverage were derailed over abortion politics. In 2020, a telemedicine bill passed both chambers, but Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it after Rep. Kathy Rapp (R., Warren), who chairs the House Health Committee, amended it to prohibit providers from prescribing abortion-inducing medicine via telehealth, Capital-Star reported at the time.

“It’s crucial to have different voices to address the unique challenges and opportunities within our communities.”

Montour County Commissioner Rebecca Dressler on the lack of female representation in local and state political offices
A woman in Berks County shares what local news coverage she wants to read as part of a Spotlight PA study
Berks County residents are extremely frustrated with the diminished capacity of the local newspaper and they are concerned about a lack of access to trustworthy information in their community, according to a groundbreaking study released last week by Spotlight PA.

In response to the findings, Spotlight PA is planning to launch a new regional reporting bureau in Berks County to be supported primarily by people living and working in the region. Read the full story, and then support the effort »

SPECIAL EVENT: Join us tomorrow, July 9 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a one-on-one interview with author Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, whose new book explores how the urban-rural divide in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. is vastly overstated. Become a member to join this exclusive event.

ROCKY WATERS: Join us Thursday, July 18 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a live panel on Pennsylvania’s private water industry, how it is regulated, and how communities are affected when service is subpar. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

Fireworks from Reservoir Park, Harrisburg as seen by Spotlight PA's Sarah Anne Hughes. Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
distant fireworks in the night sky.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
CAMPAIGN STOPS: President Joe Biden made stops in Pennsylvania on Sunday, including at an ice cream social near Harrisburg and a Black church in Philadelphia, the AP reports. The appearances follow Biden’s pledge to travel more to reach voters as he faces reelection pushback following his June 27 debate performance. California Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected calls for Biden to bow out of the race while stumping for the president in Bucks County, per Capital-Star.

• Philly’s WURD parts ways with host after Biden interview, via @AlexThomp.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
EMAIL THREAT: The Pennsylvania State Capitol complex was evacuated Saturday after an emailed bomb threat was sent to over 250 people, PennLive reports. The email threatened to detonate hidden and “highly lethal” devices around the Capitol "every few hours" until President Joe Biden publicly denounces Israel. State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D., Erie) confirmed the evacuation on X. Officials on Sunday said there was no credible threat and that the buildings were cleared to reopen.

• 2nd email sent Sunday as Biden visits Harrisburg, via @TomLehmanWGAL.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
SYSTEM UPGRADE: Pennsylvania is restarting its effort to upgrade several software systems that are used to manage election data after a multi-year delay, WITF reports. The state released a request for proposals as it initiates upgrades to systems that manage data like “voter registrations, election-night reporting, and campaign finance figures,” the station explained. The work won’t happen overnight. The contract is slated for four years with an option to extend it up to three more.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
BOTTLE FEES: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board as the agency attempts to thwart a class-action lawsuit seeking refunds of tens of millions of dollars in “special order” fees, LancasterOnline | LNP (paywall) reports. That means the board could still have to pay back individuals, bars, and restaurants for fees one attorney says should have never been assessed.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
BILL BRIEFS: The Pennsylvania House recently advanced a bill that would create a savings program for first-time homebuyers and another that would limit political spending by “foreign-influenced corporations." In other legislative news: A proposal to extend happy hours (and related discounts) statewide is set to become law.
🧠 Know your news? See if you can ace this week's Great PA News Quiz: SCOTUS rulings, summer Olympics, and budget work.
‘TRULY A LOSS’: Pennsylvania authorities are investigating the killing of a transgender Mercer County teen who was found dismembered July 3 around the Shenango River Lake, TribLIVE reports. A 29-year-old man from Sharon is charged with first-degree murder.
TIKTOK TROUBLE: A Chester County middle school is shaken after several students posed as their teachers on TikTok in fake accounts “rife with pedophilia innuendo, racist memes, homophobia,” The New York Times (paywall) reports. 
SHOW STATUS: Harrisburg’s Fourth of July fireworks show may not be back next year after chaos on Thursday left the mayor injured and officials mulling the event’s future, PennLive reports.
STEP CHALLENGE: The Inquirer’s Jason Nark chronicled his journey climbing the 1000 Steps Trail in Huntingdon County (paywall). Spoiler: The name is deceiving. 
LUCKY CHANCE: A Lancaster County woman who recently completed breast cancer treatment received the surprise of a lifetime when she won a $5 million prize in a scratch-off lottery game, CNN reports. 
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be countedPlease include your first name and last initial.

Thursday's answer: Superpatriotic

Congrats to our weekly winner: Maloy S.
Congrats to our daily winners: Timothy A., Barbara F., Betty S., Stacy S., Don H., Lynne E., Kimberly D., Jon W., Elaine C., Bob C., Annette I., Kim C., Richard A., Susan N., Marc G., Pat P., William Z., Perry H., Vicki U., Ada M., Tom M., Wendy A., and David T.
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